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As maritime union officials across the country continue to work hard
to keep mariners employed and safe, others in the nation’s capital are
informing Congressional leadership what is needed to protect this
workforce in a future COVID-19 stimulus package.

The MTD, maritime unions and the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades
Department (TTD) sent a joint letter to Senate and House leaders
outlining short term and long term ideas to address the economic
viability for the U.S.-flag maritime industry while protecting the men
and women who crew these vessels.

The unions called upon Congress to:
1) suspend the vessel operating days requirement for the payment of
the Maritime Security Program stipend  and provide additional
emergency payment to the operators to cover the costs of maintaining
the vessel in a state of readiness and keeping the crew employed while
the vessel is laid up;
2) increase U.S.-flag cargo preference requirements to 100 percent for
all government generated cargoes;
3) provide COVID-19 testing kits and other protective equipment for
mariners aboard U.S.-flag vessels;
4) extend expiring Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC) in
the same manner that other mariner documents and certifications have
been extended;
5) exempt mariners from the individual state travel restrictions and
quarantine requirements so they can reach their vessels without
interruption and delay;
6) end the Military Sealift Command policy that only precludes civil
service mariners from leaving and returning to the vessel but allows
other personnel to do so;
7) provide sufficient funds to support domestic ferry operations and
to make clear such funds may be used to cover operating and
operating-related expenses;
8) allow all non-profit maritime union vocational training facilities
to be eligible to apply for assistance under the recently enacted
paycheck protection program; and
9) reject all attempts by foreign shipping interests to secure waivers
of the Jones Act for cargo, passenger and dredging operations.

Signing on to the statement besides the MTD and the TTD were the
presidents of the Seafarers International Union; the Masters, Mates
and Pilots; the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association; the American
Maritime Officers; the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific; and the Marine
Firemen’s Union.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Congress is not expected to return to
Washington until early May. However, legislators and their staff have
been looking into additional measures to assist American citizens and
businesses cope during the crisis.

While most of the nation’s attention to the industry has focused on
the efforts of the USNS Comfort in New York City and the USNS Mercy in
Los Angeles, American merchant mariners continue working aboard
U.S.-flag ships around the country and the world to deliver needed
goods and supplies.